But the convention center, crowded with
displaced residents, became lawless.
"It got real terrible," said
Temple, 25. Some evacuees "didn't have any respect for
Temple's family barricaded their room.
But frantic people pounded on the door, convinced the group had secret
supplies of water, food and ice. At night, said Temple, who is two months
pregnant, they could hear screams and cries for help. They took turns
guarding the door with a knife.
Finally, after a week trapped in a
building foul with urine and feces, the desperate family boarded a bus to
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. They did not know where
they were being flown.
Contacted by cell phone a few days
later, Temple said her family had been relocated to Lubbock, Texas, more
than 850 miles from their home. They have a small, safe place in a shelter
that has activities for the children.
"They don't really know what's
going on, and that's the best thing," she said.
Temple doubts she'll return to New
Orleans. "Being in the convention center made something come out from
inside of me that I never wanted to come out." - Chris Gray
Waiting for a boat that would return him
to his home in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Cummings joked that the
director of the city's aquarium wanted to borrow his house as a satellite
He was sad about the storm's damage but
optimistic the city "will rebuild, better. The day will come when
this is all in the rearview mirror."
Cummings was returning to his flooded
house to collect some belongings. "I've got to get my daughter's
clothes," he said. "The only reason I came was to get her
Cummings, 68, is the father of eight
children ages 16 to 40. The youngest, Kate, a junior in high school, won't
be returning to her private girls' school, where she was at the top of her
class. Instead, she's now registered in Texas, where her family has
relocated until it is safe to move back to Jefferson Parish.
Cummings said it was important that his
daughter have some of her old clothes, not just replacements.
"There's nothing like that favorite
skirt," he said. "She said, 'Dad, when you go into my room, the
closet on the left, can you take everything?' She also wanted a jacket,
her jacket. She said, 'It's somewhere in the house.' " - Natalie
National guardsmen were helping Savage
and two friends flee New Orleans. But first the guardsmen from Ohio
searched the friends' luggage. Inside the socks and sweat pants, the
guardsmen discovered the bottles.
"Damn!" Savage yelped each
time they pulled out his cognac and gin. "You guys find
The Guard commander said the rules were
simple: No weapons. No alcohol.
Savage, 41, also brought out his
family's silverware, wrapped in a pink towel. He uncovered it slowly and
held out the tarnished forks, knives and spoons for the guardsmen to see.
"It was my mother's and her
mother's. My grandmother's," he said haltingly. With the soldiers'
approval, he carefully placed them back in his bag.
Spec. Frank Ranalli continued searching
the men's possessions. He looked up at them after finishing with another
"I'm proud of you guys," he
said. "This whole bag, no alcohol!"- Natalie Pompilio
She was visiting a friend's apartment in
Gulfport, Miss., when the storm approached. So Rodgers took the only thing
she had: a black macrame purse containing her glasses, a comb and her ID.
"I just started running," she
said. "I just took what I had."
Rodgers, 44, has had no permanent
residence since she was released from prison two years ago. She's been
drifting among the houses of friends. She fears she won't be able to get a
job in another state because she is on probation for forging checks at the
Biloxi casinos. Her home for now is the Red Cross shelter.
Rodgers said she fell frequently. And
she lost all feeling in her right leg two years ago, she said, after the
Alzheimer's patient she was caring for mistook her for a burglar and shot
"It's been rough," she said.
An addiction to gambling got her in
trouble, she said, so she's happy the storm wiped out the casinos. She was
still trying to reach relatives, although she has not spoken with her
27-year-old daughter for a while.
"She doesn't think much of my
lifestyle," Rodgers said.
But she thinks the hurricane has given
her a chance to start a new life. She has taken on a volunteer job as
receptionist at the shelter.
"I'm scared to leave," she
said. "I feel safe here, and I don't have a home to go back to."
- Amy Worden
She and her husband, Erwin, built their
dream home 10 years ago by the Wolf River and Little Bay in De Lisle,
Miss. She's a retired flight attendant, he's a retired battalion chief for
the Toledo, Ohio, Fire Department. He grew up in Mississippi, so they
Their home had a long driveway and a
boathouse amid the pines and palmettos about 30 miles east of New Orleans.
They even installed a 120-year-old stained-glass window from their old
house in Toledo.
Now their home is a field of rubble,
flattened by the hurricane's wind and water.
"That was my bedroom," Landry
said, pointing to where the master suite once was. "And that was my
They picked through the mess and
recovered what they could. A piece of Carolyn's parents' wedding china. An
anniversary glass. Her high school yearbook, damp but salvageable.
Then they collected fragments of stained
glass, memories of their prime in Ohio. The shards glistened in the sun.
Would they rebuild?
"I don't know if we can. We put
everything we had into this home, and it's all gone.
"But these few things," she
said of the bits of china, glass and paper, "these we'll save." -
She was fortunate. She rode out
Hurricane Katrina in one of the most heavily damaged neighborhoods in
Pascagoula, Miss. If she had stayed home, she said, she might have been
among the 30 who perished in the St. Charles Condominiums.
After the storm, she made her way back
to those condos to see what was left. The only possession she could find
was a large bronze cross.
"We should have this blessed,"
she told her husband.
He replied, "I believe it already
is."- Tony Gnoffo
The 65-year-old widow refused to leave
her New Orleans house.
"It's as neat as a pin," she
said. "I'm going to stay here forever. I'm going to stay here until
it opens up."
Despite a week of oppressive humidity
and no water or electricity, Galatas kept herself as tidy as her Uptown
house. She was dressed in a pressed pantsuit. Her hair was styled, and her
jewelry - gold earrings, rings and necklace - was in place. She said she
bathed and washed her hair each day in water she had stored in tubs and
pots before the storm.
She uses flashlights and candles at
night. When she needs something, she drives to the town of Vacherie, 35
Galatas, a Baptist minister, said she
was not afraid to be in her home alone. But she was not naive. She was
"I'm a minister, but I will become
Annie Oakley. You know who Annie Oakley is?" she said. "I'll
say, 'In the name of Jesus, come out!' Pow! Pow! Pow!" - Natalie
National guardsmen clearing New Orleans
of residents asked Cruise and his wife, Gail, to leave their Mid City
home. Cruise clutched his 11-year-old mutt, Tila, and sobbed.
Cruise, 48, said he knew what was
coming. He refused to let it happen.
"I would rather walk to Baton Rouge
than give up my dog," he said. "It's 60 miles. I can do that in
three days. But I'm not giving up my dog."
The Cruises had weathered the storm with
four other families. They had gas and a generator. They had helped other
people evacuate, even using toolboxes to float them to safety. But he felt
no need to leave.
"I've survived this better than
anybody," he said. "The only reason I gotta leave is the dead
bodies, the stench and the diseases."
He turned to the silent guardsmen as
they waited for a truck to evacuate them. "I'm not leaving my dog.
You can't make me leave my dog."
The soldiers did not respond. Cruise
walked away, still holding Tila. His wife followed him quietly. - Natalie
The sisters escaped New Orleans before
the floodwaters engulfed their neighborhood. Pradus is pretty sure her
one-story house on Elysian Fields Avenue is gone. Mack fears her
second-floor apartment nearby was inundated, too.
They ended up in a shelter at the River
Center in Baton Rouge, more than an hour from their native New Orleans.
They and other relatives were sleeping on cots on the convention center
"We're in agony here," said
The sisters grew up in the city. Pradus
is retired on disability after throwing out her back. Mack works at the
Sisters of St. Joseph, doing maintenance at the convent. "We don't
know any other place, really," said Mack, 64.
The Red Cross volunteers at the shelter
have been helpful, they said. But some people in Baton Rouge, whose
population has swollen with displaced people, were brusque when the
sisters tried to locate the Social Security office to reroute their
"We all have the faith they will
repair the city and we will go back," Mack said. But Pradus is trying
to suppress her doubts about their future.
"We have to go back and see for
ourselves and face reality," she said.
"I have to get my mind together,
but that's still my home. We still have our house keys. My keys are
hanging around my neck, honey. They may never leave."- Andrew